Thursday, May 17, 2007

School of Dying

Schools Of The Civil War Reenactor

Thomas R. Fasulo
13th Indiana Volunteer Infantry

Q: How do you know when to die?
A: We go to Dying School.
Actually, the proper name is School of the Dead, but usually we just call it Dying School. This school is held at most major events, but slots fill up quickly. This is one of the reasons most Civil War reenactors preregister for events up to a year ahead of time. Most never commit the faux pas of registering at the last minute, or just showing up on the first morning of the event.
At Dying School, students are taught how to die according to the various projectiles. There are separate courses on Rifle Balls, Solid Shot, Shell, Canister, Grape-shot, and others. Until a reenactor has a Basic Certificate from Dying School he or she is not allowed to die in a reenactment. If someone without a Certificate dies, and is caught, they are punished by being immediately transferred to a cavalry unit or to Brigade Staff, as no one is ever allowed to die in those units.
Once a reenactor has learned to die alone, he or she then moves on to the final course required for the Basic Certificate from the School of the Dead. This is the ever popular Die In A Bunch Course.
Some hardcore reenactors take additional courses at Dying School and receive an Advanced Certificate from Dying School. These courses cover dying from Diarrhea, Sexual Diseases, Heat Stroke, and that famous cause of so many Southern deaths - a High Cholesterol Heart Attack. Graduates of the first two advanced courses have the right to wear stains on the front or back of their trousers. They wear these stains as a badge of honor. The advanced course on High Cholesterol Heart Attacks is becoming more popular as it permits reenactors to die in garrison or in camp anytime they wish to without having to wait for a shot to be fired.
There is even an advanced course for officers. This is the I Just Tripped Over My Sword Again So I Might As Well Lie Here And Let People Think I Did It On Purpose Course.

Q: Are there any other schools reenactors have to go to?
A: Yes, there are several.
One of the most important is the School of Breaking and Running. Although a Certificate from the School of Breaking and Running is usually not required to attend a reenactment, it is highly prized. This school awards certificates in five different levels, with Level 1 being the most basic and Level 5 the most advanced.
Although not required, reenactors should really try to obtain a Level 3 Certificate in Breaking and Running. Most Confederate reenactors never have to have a Certificate beyond Level 3 unless they intend to participate in reenactments of the Battles of Chattanooga or Nashville. Then a Level 5 Certificate is required.
Most Union reenactors try to obtain a Level 3 or 4 Certificate, especially if they participate in early war reenactments. However, some late-war battles, such as the Battle of Olustee, require Union reenactors to have a Level 5 Certificate in Breaking and Running before they can register.
(Note: An exception is made for Union reenactors portraying units of the 54th Massachusetts or the 35th U.S. Colored Troops. Members of these units are not required to have a Certificate in Breaking and Running at any level. There is an historical reason for this. At Olustee these units did not break and run.)

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